Al Qaeda doesn't exist. They're an invention of the US Government designed to keep the population frightened, and ensure they accept higher military spending. They're all just US puppets.
One quote sometimes used to support some of these ideas comes from former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Or at least that’s what you might be told.
Shortly before his untimely death, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that "Al Qaeda" is not really a terrorist group but a database of international mujaheddin and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis to funnel guerrillas, arms, and money into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.
Robin Cook wasn’t known for denying Al Qaeda is a terrorist group as far as we can recall, and searching at Hansard (a record of everything that goes on in Parliament) produced no matches even remotely matching the above claim. The best match we found was this, from a Guardian article:
Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation would turn its attention to the west.
The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us.
No suggestion whatsoever that “al Qaeda is not a terrorist group”, quite the opposite. In the absence of any supporting evidence, it looks like the original quote has been twisted to suit one side of the story: so much for finding 911 truth.
Some people have also misrepresented the UK documentary “The Power of Nightmares” to come to the same conclusion. They start with quotes like this...
Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?
Is it conceivable that Al Qaeda, as defined by President Bush as the center of a vast and well-organized international terrorist conspiracy, does not exist?
Typically the first line will be quoted, or they’d suggest this means there is no terrorist threat. However, this isn’t what the documentary said. The Power of Nightmares specifically states that bin Ladin is at the centre of a group of terrorists, who carried out 9/11, and may carry out other attacks in the future. Its particular claim, as the quote makes clear, is that they are not “vast” and “well-organised”, with agents in every country. Not the same as saying they don’t exist. Here’s an example in a quote by journalist Jason Burke:
The idea which is critical to the FBI¹s prosecution that bin Laden ran a coherent organisation with operatives and cells all around the world of which you could be a member is a myth. There is no Al Qaeda organisation. There is no international network with a leader, with cadres who will unquestioningly obey orders, with tentacles that stretch out to sleeper cells in America, in Africa, in Europe. That idea of a coherent, structured terrorist network with an organised capability simply does not exist.
However, even here there is reason to believe they underplay the reality of the situation. Search the above file, for instance, and you won’t see any mention of the Al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole. Why not? Wasn’t that a part of why America were saying they were a danger? Seems relevant to us, yet The Power of Nightmares chose not to discuss this with their viewers.
Further, you need to be careful about how much you read into quotes like the above, as The Nation pointed out:
in his 2003 book, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, Burke is less dismissive of the idea that Al Qaeda was an organization than this soundbite suggests. Burke wrote that while the "al-Qaeda hardcore" consisted of relatively few people, "by late 2001, bin Laden and the men around him had access to huge resources, both symbolic and material, which they could use to project their power and influence internationally"--that sounds suspiciously like a "coherent organization" to me.
And in fact if you read beyond the “Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?” title of our first article, a more accurate summary appears later.
Of course, the documentary does not doubt that an embittered, well-connected and wealthy Saudi man named Osama bin Ladin helped finance various affinity groups of Islamist fanatics that have engaged in terror, including the 9/11 attacks. Nor does it challenge the notion that a terrifying version of fundamentalist Islam has led to gruesome spates of violence throughout the world. But the film, both more sober and more deeply provocative than Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," directly challenges the conventional wisdom by making a powerful case that the Bush administration, led by a tight-knit cabal of Machiavellian neoconservatives, has seized upon the false image of a unified international terrorist threat to replace the expired Soviet empire in order to push a political agenda.
Of course some still argue that this is incorrect, or if al Qaeda exist, they’re just a US puppet. But if there were any substance to this, then where is the criticism for bin Ladin’s “collaboration” in the Middle East? Why are we not seeing marches where the people condemn al Qaeda leaders for being nothing more than a tool of Bush?
One collection of quotes you’ll often find popping up in forums does suggest scepticism of the existence of Al Qaeda, but you need to read these carefully, too. An example:
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair, London, United Kingdom
Commenting on the possible role of Al Qaeda, Blair said, "Al Qaeda is not an organization. Al Qaeda is a way of working ... but this has the hallmark of that approach."
This reads to us like Jason Burke’s comments, above: he’s saying that there is no big central organisation that you can join, but not that Al Qaeda doesn’t exist at all. And if whoever prepared the above quote hadn’t snipped out the very next line, then that might have been clearer to everyone:
"Al Qaeda clearly has the ability to provide training ... to provide expertise ... and I think that is what has occurred here," Blair said.
Then they give us this quote:
According to Dadullah, al-Qaeda did not exist in Afghanistan and he said he did not know the fate or whereabouts of Osama bin-Laden.
But unless you read the source link, you wouldn’t know that the story appeared in March 2003, long after the fall of the Taleban. He could simply be saying they didn’t exist in Afghanistan now, not that they hadn’t before. And in fact specifying a location (“al Qaeda did not exist in Afghanistan”) suggests he does believe they exist elsewhere, hardly supportive to the claims of this piece. Especially when later pieces tell a very different story, such as in these reports of an al Jazeera interview:
Dadullah implied that the Taliban and al-Qaida were working together, and said mujahedeen from various parts of the world, including Arabs, were fighting in Afghanistan. He said the foreigners made up about 10 percent of the fighters.
“Both Taliban and al-Qaida have the same objectives,” he said, warning that anyone supporting the Americans and the government “will be dealt with.”
Cooperation between us and Al Qaeda is very strong. Many of our Arab mujahideen brothers are fighting alongside of us to establish the religion of Allah. We will accompany Al Qaeda anywhere to fight the enemies of Allah
There are reasons to question his earlier quote, then, and there are potential issues of trust with other quotees:
Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Member of Parliament in Pakistan:
"I've never been sure whether the so-called Al-Qaeda has ever even existed."
But then there was surprise in Pakistan when Qazi Hussain Ahmad revealed how he’d repeatedly met with bin Ladin, which led a Pakistan online newspaper to wonder how close his party might have been to Al Qaeda:
Talking to the Sunday magazine of a national Urdu daily, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad revealed that he had repeatedly met Osama bin Laden and that the Al Qaeda leader had visited him at Mansoora, the Jamaat headquarters in Lahore...
When Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was finally caught it was at the house of a JI member. Did the Jamaat have no truck with Al Qaeda, as Qazi Sahib claims?
Other quotes of his don’t sit so well with the “Al Qaeda doesn’t exist” idea, either:
In an interesting contrast, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the hardliner Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader, hails al-Qaeda for its attempts on General Musharraf's life. In an interview with Weekly Ghazwa [June 2], Qazi said: "General Musharraf is a traitor. He used to be al-Qaeda' number one patron. But now he has cheated it at the US behest. Therefore, al-Qaeda is right if it attacks him. It will take him on sooner rather than later. The mayhem in Karachi is a reaction to Musharraf's policies against al-Qaeda in South Waziristan."
The message here, once again, is not to necessarily believe quotes. Find the full version for yourself, read the context, look at what else an individual has said and decide if they can be trusted. Only then can you decide how accurate a particular article might be.